So, I finally got around to trying Caminito in Northampton last night. We went early because we were trying to catch the 7 o'clock curtain of closing night at Hampshire Shakespeare's Richard III ( non -food detour here: under the stars, overlooking the Holyoke Range in Hadley -- a beautiful setting, an OK performance, but worth the trip at least once a season -- bring something soft to sit on, the chairs are more murderous than Richard's dark soul!!!!)But back to the food...
It was a beautiful night -- warm, not humid, perfect for sitting out on the patio, so I should have been lulled into a pretty good humor...but something about the service immediately put me off. It was a palpable feeling of non-welcome -- from "Sit anywhere," with a vague toss of her head toward the patio from the hostess, to a total invisibility from our server for a good ten minutes, and an exceptionally clanky process of removing excess silverware and place settings from our table as though we had caused offense by sitting at a four-top when there were only two of us, when in fact there were only four tops to be had!! The place was well populated for early on a Sunday evening, but by no means bustling, so I can't really write off the brusqueness to being over-worked. Bummer of a way to start the meal.
By Northampton standards I thought the wine list was over-priced -- we ordered whites by the glass and for $6.99 per, got barely two inches in a modest size glass. They were out of bread when we got there and promised some out of the oven within ten minutes, but when it arrived it was barely cooked through and virtually raw in the center. They did serve a very tasty dipping sauce on the side -- sort of in the chimichurri family, but tomato and oil-based with lots of cumin.
We bypassed appetizers because of our tight time frame and went staright to entrees. I agree with others who have commented that while their menu is broad enough -- it's not terribly exciting. My friend (a proud Italian) pointed out that everything in the "Gourmet" section of the menu was "Napolitan" -- couldn't quite figure that part out and wasn't moved to try!!
As we were dithering over choices, a spectacular looking plate of short ribs arrived at the next table -- big beefy slabs of what looked liked Fred Flinstone-esque brontosaurus ribs. I should have followed my impulse and ordered the same, but I was tempted by the skirt steak -- one of my favorite cuts of meat and one I rarely cook for myself. My friend ordered the filet mignon.
The meals arrived and I was immediately struck by the difference in portion size. Mine was a modest "diet-book recommendation sized" piece of steak, with the vast majority of the plate filled with salad. My friends was a huge filet, heaped upon a generous pile of mashed potatoes and squash. As I looked around at other diners it struck me that all of the women's portions were significantly smaller than those of their male dining counterparts -- brontosaurus ribs guy had his full plate of beef, his companion had a small chicken breast, another couple was served a giant sized steak for the man and a very small piece of whatever it was she had ordered. This pattern was consistent across the restaurant -- it wasn't that the women's orders were served with anything less than the menu promised, it just looked patently obvious that the men were getting bigger slabs of meat!! Wierd!!! Now, granted -- anyone looking at the size of my rear end would probably recommend a smaller portion size, but dammit I wanted my big pile o' beef just like the boys were getting!!The prices were all within the same range, so I can't quite figure this out, unless the server was making recommendations as to portion sizes to the chef, which I would find really wierd!!
Anyway -- the steak was good. No more, no less. Cooked as I had requested, tender and tasty. The salad was quite nice, and there was a lot of it -- dark greens, tomato and onion in a not-too-tart lemony dressing, but I was still hungry at the end of it. My friend declared his filet "very good" but I've seen him roll his eyes and moan at true deliciousness, so I know this was not it.
We ordered dessert -- flan for me, dulce de leche crepes for him. Again -- massive, poufy generous portion for him, Weight Watchers sized for me. Passable flan -- the texture was nice, but the caramel sauces was watery. His crepes were really good -- tender crepes stuffed with warm dulce de leche, whipped cream -- all around perfect gluttony.
Our bill total was around $75 before tip, including three glasses of wine, two entrees and two desserts. I did not feel as though I got my money's worth, nor did I feel compelled to leave anything other than a standard tip as the service was just... well, ...serviceable. We got what we ordered on a reasonable time schedule, in spite of the fact that we had told the server and the hostess we were trying to make a theater curtain -- we did leave an hour and a half for dinner and still barely managed to make it out in time.
Bottom line -- I was unimpressed but not actively offended. I would go back if another more exciting option were not available and next time I'm going to order the short ribs and if I don't get a massive Stone-Age sized portion, I'm gonna know it's a conspiracy of some sort!!!!
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